Break out your boots: the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is just around the corner — and that means three weeks of top-level RodeoHouston 2018 entertainment at NRG Stadium.
Organizers announced the 2018 line-up at a swanky soiree in the East Club at NRG with multiple buffet lines and an open bar for VIPs and media on Thursday night. It included an impressive group of country and western heavy hitters, buzz-worthy up-and-comers, and a few surprises.
We already knew country megastar Garth Brooks would open and close the rodeo with shows on February 27 and March 18, respectively. Country-wise, Little Big Town plays on February 28; The Voice judge and current Gwen Stefani beau Blake Shelton hits the center stage on March 1; country it-girl Kelsea Ballerini is set for March 3; Rascal Flatts performs on March 5; multi-platinum crooner Jason Aldean plays on March 6; Thomas Rhett on March 7; and Luke Bryan on March 8.
Nashville Star winner Chris Young is set for March 9; Huntsville, Texas native Cody Johnson is on for a big night on March 10; the Zac Brown Band returns to Rodeo Houston on March 11; Keith Urban plays on March 15; hot as all get out Chris Stapleton follows up his acclaimed 2017 set on March 16; and Peyton Manning buddy Brad Paisley will presumably not try and sell you insurance on March 17.
“No matter what happens, we will always be 60, 70 percent country,” said Jason Kane, Managing Director of Entertainment for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, who is already planning the 2019 edition. “My goal every year is to make sure the line-up looks like the red carpet at the CMAs or ACMs, where you’re seeing star after star that are household names. I wanted to make sure that those who weren’t able to see Garth Brooks or people that didn’t care to see Garth Brooks had strong country options.”
Other performers include ’60s throwback soul singer Leon Bridges on March 2. Canadian pop star Alessia Cara will take on the family-friendly Sunday, March 3 slot that’s sure to be attended by plenty of Moana fans. Pop rock band OneRepublic will attract the teen audience on March 14. Latin music will be represented by tejano band Calibre 50 on Sunday, March 11 for Go Tejano Day, and reggaeton star J Balvin performs on March 13.
“I’m really excited about Alessia because I think on that Sunday, it’ll be a great day for the younger audience,” Kane said. “It just works really well for that day. I think she’s got a great message as an artist.”
The first thing that sticks out looking at the line-up is how consistent it is across the board with popular country acts, with nearly each one either at the peak of their popularity, or breaking big on the country charts. Unlike last year, this line-up won’t raise many eyebrows — there’s no EDM like The Chainsmokers or pop-punk of Blink-182, and several acts are making return and repeat appearances. But it will do what it aims to do: put butts in seats, which is always a challenge the year after breaking attendance records.
New for 2018 is a custom-made, star-shaped stage which Joel Cowley, President and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo promised would allow for more audience interaction than ever before, with five star points reaching over 30-feet high. In addition, the mobile, rotating, 350,000-pound behemoth (everything is bigger in Texas, of course) will contain twice the lights than the previous incarnation. The stage was built by TAIT, the same company that has designed productions for international acts such as U2, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
“I think people are going to be thrilled to see the show in a different configuration, because not only is the stage bigger, the lighting will be double what we had.” Kane said about the new stage, which replaces the former, 30-year-old rig. “The ability for an artist to be showcased in a very special way or take advantage of special effects — it’s going to be multi-tiered.”
Tickets for performances go on sale at 10 am on Thursday, January 11.